Tangula Chambers, a History MA student at Roehampton University, was our first ever RAI Intern for eight weeks in Hilary Term 2021. She reflects on her time at the Institute below.
Over the Hilary term, I was fortunate to spend eight weeks with the RAI as a history intern. Much like the rest of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had to work remotely, but I still had a very worthwhile and professionally enriching experience. As a history graduate student, I was thrilled when I contacted Adam Smith to ask for an internship at the RAI and he agreed. My interest in the RAI comes from my background in American history and as a historian with the National Park Service in the United States. When searching for an internship, I wanted to ideally look at institutions and programmes where I could use my previous skills as a public historian, but also, I was interested in how American history is understood or seen outside of the United States.
Not really knowing what to expect as this was my first work experience in the U.K., I did not really know what my experience would be. From day one, the RAI embraced me as a full colleague. I attended the RAI Community Welcome event via Zoom where I met all the fellows for the term, and I was introduced to the RAI audience by way of their Twitter account. Being able to work effectively from home, creating my own timetable and collaborating with my internship supervisor Alice Kelly, we managed to produce a schedule for the week, dividing each task into achievable objectives. I attended their weekly strategy team meetings on Microsoft Teams where we discussed ongoing projects and shared friendly banter. In those meetings, I really bonded with the staff and created relationships across the Oxford community. Especially, I enjoyed being tech support for the RAI Goes to the Movies in assistance to Sage Goodwin, who created a schedule of informative movies about race, sexuality, and representation. I was particularly interested in many of the discussions that came from this series with academics from other institutions and some of the movie producers and stars.
The highlight of my experience was the Congress to Campus event. I was a co-organizer along with Alice who gave me total autonomy in what I wanted to bring to the event. I was able to be the main point of contact with other organizers, which included the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, as well as the U.S. Embassy in London. I created the promotional material through a flier and Twitter content, as well as the agenda and information packet for the members of Congress. I was delighted that we had over 200 attendees at our Zoom event – the largest audience the RAI has had for Congress to Campus. Congressman Ben Chandler and Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle were enthusiastic and engaging speakers, which made the event a great success.
What I enjoyed the most about my time with the RAI is their openness to listen to ideas. I am deeply passionate about working in public history spaces, so I wanted to be informed about the RAI’s goals as an organization, as well as Oxford’s goals and how they align. For the final task of my internship, I wrote a Cultural Partnership document outlining American institutions that the RAI could potentially partner with for future programming. My vision of what the RAI is doing and can do in the future is to have more of an extensive pool of partnerships and a collaboration network on a more international scale. The team welcomed this idea, and I cannot wait to see what they do in the future.
My internship experience enhanced my collaborative, management, and creative skills. Though working remotely limited interaction to the video chatting format, with which we are all so familiar with now, I could not have asked for a better network of people to work with than the RAI.